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Minnetonka Researchers Excel at State Science and Engineering Fair
Minnetonka Researchers Excel at State Science and Engineering Fair

Seventy-five Minnetonka Research students presented at the Twin Cities Regional Science and Engineering Fair in late February. From there, 33 qualified for the state-level competition, 25 of whom participated. The State Science and Engineering Fair was held virtually in early April.

"One of my highlights of leading Minnetonka Research every year is seeing the different ideas, questions and projects students are passionate about and then watching them dive deep into the process and creatively problem solve through the entire journey," said Minnetonka Research director Kim Hoehne. "Students are often helping one another and sharing expertise, mentors are instrumental to our success and are extremely supportive, and the staff I work with are always student-focused and service-oriented. It truly feels like a Research family."

Minnetonka Research is unique among other MHS programs because as part of the class, students have the opportunity to create their own work plan for the year and intentionally investigate a topic of personal curiosity or passion, shared Ms. Hoehne.

Among many accolades earned by Minnetonka researchers, William Sepesi, senior, was named an International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist for his project A machine learning approach to Pokemon battling. Although the in-person International Fair was canceled for 2020, the Society for Science and the Public is working to provide an aspect of the fair virtually.

"William's win as a finalist for the International Science and Engineering Fair comes as no surprise. His commitment to his project has been impressive since he ideated his project in the summer of 2019," shared his research teacher, Caitlin McWhirter. "He is a natural and engaging speaker that captivates audiences with his smooth communication skills, and we are thrilled for his efforts to be noticed with an award of this caliber. A win for William is a win for the Minnetonka Research Program because it shows us that our students can compete at the highest level in the world with their own unique ideas."

William was not expecting to be named a finalist, nor was being selected for the international competition one of his goals at the outset of his project. "My focus throughout the year has always been learning over creating a product that could do well at science fairs," he shared.

Working with his mentor, Aaron Traylor, was one of William's favorite parts of his research experience. "I've really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from him and others about techniques on the cutting edge of AI and games research," said William. "It's great to be a high schooler and have the opportunity to work with and learn from a group of PhD students."

William's other favorite part of Minnetonka Research was the class itself. "I have genuinely looked forward to class every day this year, not only because of the academic content, but because of the close community I've built with my friends, as well as the overall environment fostered by my teacher, Mrs. McWhirter," he said.

Other awards earned by Minnetonka Research students during the state-level competition include:

  • Seagate Awards Emerging Scientist Award - recognizing excellent STEM research conducted by students competing for the first time.
    • Levi Hoogendoorn, senior, Improving fencing footwear for injury prevention through the analysis of biomechanical and preference data
    • Ming Ying Yeoh, junior, Inflammation in Alzheimer's disease: effects of tau protein hyperphosphorylation on microglial phagocytic behavior
    • Karsten Johnson, grade, Mircofluidic Sweat Biomoniters
  • 3M Awards - most innovative high school project
    • Sterre Hoogendoorn, senior, First Place, Creating an algorithm to assist saber referees using biomechanical data
    • Dylan Pitt, senior, Honorable Mention, An investigation into the dangers of wrestling relating to head impacts and the inadequacy of the currently required headgear
  • Beckman Coulter Engineering Awards
    • Jai Chadha, senior, First Place High School Engineering Project, Using forearm myoelectric sensing to control an upper-extremity 3D printed prosthetic hand
    • Julia Guptail (Chanhassen), senior, Third Place High School Engineering Project, Wearable Device for Drowning Prevention
  • Beckman Coulter Science Awards
    • Aidan Edge, senior, Third Place High School Science Project, Detecting the presence of Powassan virus in Ixodes scapularis
  • Ecolab - Food Science Award
    • Ahlaam Abdulwal, junior, First Place High School Project, The Effect of Artificial Food Colors on the Release of Neurotransmitters within Model Organisms
  • Grand Awards
    • Levi Hoogendoorn, senior, Minnesota Academy of Science Gold Award
    • Karsten Johnson, senior, Minnesota Academy of Science Silver Award
    • Ming Ying Yeoh, junior, Minnesota Academy of Science Silver Award
    • Jacob Bridge, senior, Minnesota Academy of Science Bronze Award
    • Sterre Hoogendoorn, senior, Minnesota Academy of Science Bronze Award
  • Us Air Force Achievement Award
    • Jai Chadha, senior, Using forearm myoelectric sensing to control an upper-extremity 3D printed prosthetic hand
  • Naval Science Award
    • William Sepesi, senior, A Machine Learning Approach To Pokemon Battling
    • Ahlaam Abdulwali, junior, The Effect of Artificial Food Colors on the Release of Neurotransmitters within Model Organisms
  • Utopian Slingshot - Creative Computing in Technology Award
    • Sterre Hoogendoorn, senior, Creating an algorithm to assist saber referees using biomechanical data
  • Wolfram Research - Mathematica Software Award
    • Thomas Lane, senior, Captive Breeding of Sahyadria denisonii without the use of hormonal treatments
    • Ming Ying Yeoh, junior, Inflammation in Alzheimer's disease: effects of tau protein hyperphosphorylation on microglial phagocytic behavior

Minnetonka Research will hold its annual symposium virtually on Wednesday, May 27, giving students one more opportunity to present their projects. The community is welcome to attend the virtual event. Learn more and register now: https://bit.ly/MinnetonkaResearchSymposium

Congratulations on your excellent work, researchers!




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